TWO views on the opening race from our boys. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) and The Voice Of Value look to find the winner.
Cheltenham 13:30 | Supreme Novices’ Hurdle | Channel 4
The anticipation for this race seems to grow greater by the year, and it seems fitting that the meeting kicks off with a Willie Mullins hot pot. Douvan arrived from France and has won comfortably in both his Irish starts.
His first win in November seen him crush Sizing John and he then followed that up with a comfortable win in a Grade 2 hurdle in January. Crucially Sizing John won a Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas adding real gloss to Douvan’s form.
It’s that November race that intrigues me as I’m amazed to see Sizing John as big as 21/1 with BetBright. Yes, he might struggle in the better ground, but on bare form he must have a better chance than that.
I’ll also have a small each way interest in Shaneshill. The Willie Mullins horse has never been out the first two in his last six races. He finished second at the Festival last year in the Champion Bumper and ticks a lot of boxes for me. The ground should not be an issue.
Best Bets – Chris Graham
Cheltenham 13:30 – Sizing John each way (21/1 BetBright)
Cheltenham 13:30 – Shaneshill each way (9/1 BetBright)
I have followed the second favourite L’Ami Serge all season to good effect, and although I’m very wary of the favourite Douvan, I have decided to stick with L’Ami Serge.
Serge hasn’t run in a race with as many runners as this and there is nothing like a big race at Cheltenham to separate the wheat from the chaff but I think he has a good cruising speed that will let him stay in touch with the break-neck speed that they will shoot off at.
I think he also has a quicker change of pace than Douvan when it gets to the business end. The Willie Mullins trained horse is clearly a classy one but the trainer himself concedes that despite being a very competent jumper Douvan is perhaps lacking in a little bit of pace and that might cause problems if one or two of them are upsides coming up the hill. At 11/8 I can’t be having Douvan with some much depth to the race so I’m going with L’Ami Serge at 11/4.
Qewy offers some nice value for those who like a bigger each way price. He has very little form to go on, having run over hurdles only twice and that perhaps explains why he is available at these big odds.
John Ferguson is a trainer who takes classy horses from flat racing and turns them into nice hurdlers and he looks like he has a potential star here. Qewy was beaten into thrd in his first ever hurdles race but that was a Class 1 so there is no shame in that. On his second start he beat a horse called Cardinal Walter very comfortably and that horse has won easily since (albeit at a lower level).
The better ground will suit Qewy and his turn of pace from his days as a flat horse will come in handy in the closing stages. I think 11/1 is cracking value. I should also say that I wouldn’t put anyone off backing Jollyallan – his form in the race that Garde Le Victoire won was eye-catching and with Tony McCoy on board he can’t be ruled out.